Coronavirus: Just one in 10 tests in England processed within 24 hours

A car at a Glasgow coronavirus test centre
Just 10.4% of tests were processed within 24 hours last week compared to 14.3% of tests in the second week of September, Department for Health figures show. Credit: PA

Just one in 10 coronavirus tests are being processed within 24 hours in England, latest government figures reveal.

Only 10.4% of tests were processed within 24 hours last week compared to 14.3% of tests in the second week of September, Department for Health figures show.

While the amount of tests being processed within a 24 hour period has fallen, the percentage of tests received within 48 hours has increased slightly from previous week, with 19.5% receiving results within that period.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed the government has now provided “over £12 billion for Test and Trace”.

He told MPs: “We have met our promise to give the NHS whatever it needs, with significant new funding for NHS capacity, for PPE (personal protective equipment), and, I can inform the House today, we have now provided over £12bn for test and trace.”

The government has come under pressure to increase the speed at which tests are processed, as teachers, students, NHS staff and many others are forced to self-isolate at home as they await their Covid-19 test results.

Figures show there is a disparities on how quickly coronavirus tests are processed depending on where the tests have been carried out and at what facility.

A queue builds up outside a coronavirus testing centre in Lewisham, south London. Credit: PA

Of those being tested at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - a so-called “in-person” test - some 28.2% received their results within 24 hours - fewer than one in three people.

However this is down from 33.3% in the previous week and 66.5% in the week ending September 2.

Home testing kits take longer to process, with just 11.3% of results coming back within 48 hours in the week to September 16, up slightly from 9.3% the week before.

Just 1.8% of people in England who used a home test kit for Covid-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to September 16.

This is a drop from 1.9% the previous week and the lowest percentage since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

The data shows that median turnaround time for regional drive-through test sites rose from 27 hours the previous week to 30 hours in the week ending September 16, while mobile testing sites saw a rise from 26 to 31 hours.

The performance of local test site walk-in centres improved slightly from 35 to 34 hours during the same period.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

He told the House of Commons on June 3 he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.

Contact tracing has also dipped, with the number of close contacts reached through the NHS Test and Trace system who have been asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus has fallen from 75.9% to 74.7%.

A woman holds a coronavirus testing kit at a site in Bolton. Credit: PA

This is also well below the 77.2% of people reached in the week to August 19.

Ministers have also come under pressure for failing to ensure enough tests are available to the public, and there have been reports of people being told to travel hundreds of miles for their nearest test.

The government has set a target to reach 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

Figures from the Department for Heath show on average people are having to travel further yet again compared to the last batch of data released.

The median distance to testing sites for booked tests has increased overall since mid-August and stands at 5.2 miles.